] [ Recipes ] [ Shirley's collected recipes ][Mom's Recipes]
Cholesterol Fact Sheet
1. Source: Heart Healthy Eating: Cholesterol, Fat, Fiber,
and Sodium, Virginia Tech Extension
Service, Authors: Kathleen M. Stadler, Extension Specialist, and Forrest W. Thye,
Associate Professor, Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, Virginia Tech;
Publication Number 348-898, August 1996. Visit their web site for tables.
Everyone wants to be healthy. (Wealthy and wise, too!) What you eat and do can help you to stay healthy. In recent years, there has been much emphasis on changing one's diet to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, as these two diseases are the major causes of death in this country.
How to prevent and how to detect these diseases in the early stages while they are treatable are major areas of study. Too often, the first symptom of heart disease is a fatal heart attack or stroke. Imagine the excitement of doctors when they found that a high level of cholesterol in the blood was often associated with heart disease. The cholesterol content of the blood can be measured by a simple blood test and can usually be lowered by making dietary and lifestyle changes-no expensive tests or surgery required; not even medicine for most persons.
Many of the dietary changes that help to reduce one's risk of heart disease also appear to reduce risk of cancer. This publication offers suggestions on how to make those dietary changes.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is carried by the blood to all parts of the body. It can also be manufactured by most cells of the body. Some of the cholesterol comes from food, but the majority is made by your body. If there is too much cholesterol, there's a chance that some will collect in the walls of the blood vessels and, in time, even clog the blood vessels. If that should happen, you might have a heart attack or stroke.
In addition to knowing the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, the doctor finds it helpful to know how much of the cholesterol is present as HDL-cholesterol (the good kind) and as LDL-cholesterol (the bad kind). Cholesterol teams up with protein to get through the blood vessels. HDL, a high density lipoprotein made up of lipid (another word for fat) and protein, has more protein than fat and appears to carry the cholesterol it contains to the liver for excretion out of the body. HDL-cholesterol is known as the "good" cholesterol. Therefore, you want a high HDL number because that indicates a high level of this good cholesterol in your blood. It is desirable to have a HDL-cholesterol of more than 35 mg/dl. An average HDL number is in the mid-forties range for a man and in the fifties range for a woman. A HDL number less than 35 is considered a risk factor. For more information on coronary heart disease risk factors and cholesterol numbers, refer to VCE Publication 348-018, Know Your Cholesterol Number .
LDL is a low density lipoprotein (more fat, less protein). The cholesterol it contains is carried to the tissues and may be deposited in the blood vessels, which causes plaque formation. It is desirable to have a LDL-cholesterol of less than 130 mg/dl. The LDL number is always larger than the HDL number.
|Desirable||less than 200||less than 130|
|High||240 or above||160 or above|
The doctor or lab report may give you a TC/HDL ratio number. The ratio number is calculated by dividing the TC number by the HDL-cholesterol number. In general, a number less than 5 is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. Make sure you ask your doctor to clarify the ratio number and how it is calculated.
Triglycerides are another form of fat which can be measured in a blood sample. Triglyceride levels may be high even when blood cholesterol is normal. To lower triglyceride levels, you will need to lose weight if you are overweight, and limit the consumption of sugar. Read food labels to find if sugar has been added. High fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, mannose, sucrose (table sugar), lactose, and dextrose are words to look for if you are trying to limit sugar. Jellies, honey, pancake syrup, candy, and soft drinks contain sugar, as do cakes, cookies, pies, and ice cream. The sugar that occurs in fresh fruits is not a problem because it is at a low concentration. Try not to add a lot of sugar when cooking.
Cholesterol is found in the foods we eat, but a larger amount is made by our own bodies. Therefore, limiting foods that contain cholesterol in your diet may or may not help to lower blood cholesterol levels. A cholesterol lowering diet should first be low in total fat, especially saturated fat, as well as cholesterol.
Here is a question to help you understand which foods contain cholesterol. "Which of these sandwich fillings do not have cholesterol: tuna, peanut butter, cheese, or ham?" The correct answer is peanut butter. Why? Animal products have cholesterol; plant foods do not. Peanut butter comes from a plant food; therefore, it does not contain cholesterol, but it is high in fat.
The amount of cholesterol in a serving of most foods is small (exceptions: egg yolk and organ meats). Two 3-ounce servings of red meat or poultry plus two 8-ounce glasses of 2% milk (the amounts recommended for an adult in the Food Guide Pyramid) would total 186 mg of cholesterol, well under the daily target of 300 mg. (See Table 1)
You don't have to give up meat and other animal foods if you are on a cholesterol lowering diet, but you may need to eat smaller servings or to eat some foods less often. The following table shows the cholesterol content of some selected foods. It does not list every product but should be a helpful guide. No two servings of a food will have exactly the same amount of cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in lean meat as well as in meat with visible fat, so choosing a lean meat or removing the fat will not reduce the amount of cholesterol per serving.
If you are wondering about the cholesterol content of a food product, look at the recipe or the listing of ingredients on the food package. If it contains butter, lard, egg, milk, cheese or other food of animal origin, it will have some cholesterol. One egg distributed in 3 dozen rolls or cookies won't add up to much cholesterol in each roll or cookie.
The cholesterol and fat in an egg are found in the yolk, not the white. Two egg whites can be used to replace one whole egg in many baking products. For other uses, use one whole egg plus one egg white. Commercial egg substitutes are available but are more expensive than fresh eggs even if you discard the yolks. A homemade egg substitute product can be made using 3 egg whites, 1/4 cup skim or nonfat milk, 1 tablespoon of dry nonfat milk solids, and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. This is the equivalent of two whole eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute.
The new food label lists the cholesterol content of a food in the number of milligrams and the percent daily value. The percent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This percentage shows how much a serving of a food contributes to your daily nutrient needs. If you are trying to limit cholesterol or fat, look for foods with low percentages. For more information on understanding food labels refer to VCE Publication 348-077, Use The New Food Label To Choose A Diet Low In Fat, Saturated Fat, And Cholesterol, and 348-076, Use The New Food Label To Shop Smart.
Nutrient content claims and health claims may be on food packages. These foods must meet legal standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Often other types of media advertisements may tout a product as having no cholesterol and imply that it is better than other products because of that fact. However, all other products in the same group may be cholesterol free, too. Vegetable products do not contain cholesterol and so "cholesterol free" is correct for corn, soybean, olive, peanut, coconut, and all other oils.
The amount and kind of fat in your diet are actually more important than the cholesterol content. Lots of foods have some fat. It is important to spot the fat on a piece of meat or in the butter or margarine we spread on bread, or the oil that rises to the top of some salad dressings, but it is not as obvious in cakes, biscuits, croissants, other baked products, ice cream, hot dogs, eggs, and peanut butter. If you cook, choose recipes that have small amounts of shortening, lard, butter, margarine, and oil.
Experts recommend that we get about 30% of our calories from fat. The rest of the calories would be split between protein (10 to 15%) and carbohydrate (55 to 60%). That would mean that if you regularly eat 2000 calories a day, only 600 calories should come from fat.
How much fat does it take to provide 600 calories? One pat of butter has about 35 calories so 18 pats would equal 600 calories. But remember that the 600 calories from fat must include the fat in meat, milk, and baked products, as well as the butter or margarine you use.
Food tables and labels may list the number of grams of fat in a serving, rather than the number of calories from fat. Each gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. It is easier to keep track of the number of grams of fat than to figure the percentage of calories for each food or for each day. Refer to VCE Publication 348-900, Fat Tracker, for more information on fat grams in food.
Some persons like to look at the calories from fat in each food they eat. For example, a glass of whole milk has 72 calories (8 grams x 9 calories per gram) from fat; that's almost half of the 150 calories. A biscuit has 45 calories from fat; about half of the 100 calories. It makes better sense to look at the percentage of calories from fat in the total day's intake, as a number of foods have no fat unless it is added in cooking or at the table. On the other hand, oils and shortenings get all of their calories from fat. To calculate % calories from fat - Multiply the total number of grams of fat by 9; then divide by the total number of calories.
|If you consume||30% would be||or grams of fat|
The type of fat you eat is important, too. Fats are made up of fatty acids which may be saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated, depending on their chemical structure. Saturated fats have a full complement of hydrogens-there is no place to add another. A monounsaturated fatty acid has one double bond to which hydrogen could be added, while a polyunsaturated fatty acid has two or more double bonds to which hydrogen could be added. Foods with more saturated than polyunsaturated fatty acids are solid at room temperature. Most fats, whether liquid or solid, have some of all three types of fatty acids. Animal fat is usually high in saturated fatty acids. Vegetable oils have more polyunsaturated fatty acids and are usually liquid at room temperature. There are some exceptions. Coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils are vegetable oils, but they have more saturated fat than polyunsaturated.
Eating mostly saturated fat will raise blood cholesterol levels. Substituting monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources of fat for saturated so that there are about equal amounts of the three will help to lower blood cholesterol levels.
As you can see in Table 2, food of animal origin usually contains both saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids but little polyunsaturated fat. Olive, peanut, canola, and sesame oil are especially rich sources of monounsaturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are found primarily in vegetable oils and margarines, spreads, salad dressings, and other foods which have oil as an ingredient. Safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, and cottonseed oils are the best sources of polyunsaturated fat.
The ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) to saturated ones is frequently referred to as the P:S ratio. The P:S ratio is found by dividing the number of grams of polyunsaturated fat by the number of grams of saturated fat. The P:S ratio is included in Table 2. The P:S ratio is an important bit of information if you are trying to increase the amount of polyunsaturated fat in your diet.
Omega-3 refers to the location of the unsaturated bonds in a fatty acid. The fat of many varieties of fish and seafood is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Eskimos who get a lot of Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet have a lower incidence of heart disease, lower levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and higher levels of HDL cholesterol than the population at large. Feeding trials in the U.S. have not been clear cut, so at this time it doesn't appear that taking large amounts of Omega-3 in capsules or supplements is worth the expense. It does make sense to eat fish and seafood frequently as a good source of low-fat, high-quality protein.
Vegetable oils are often hydrogenated in the making of shortening and margarines to make them solid at room temperature. That enables the making of stick margarine from corn oil and of shortening from soybean oil. Hydrogenation is really another way of describing saturation. An oil may be only partially hydrogenated in the making of soft margarines and spreads.
Trans Fatty Acids
Recently, information in the media has focused on trans fatty acids in margarine. Foods made with hydrogenated fats, such as margarine or common processed foods (crackers), will also have trans fatty acids.
Research has estimated the amount of trans fatty acids from all dietary sources to provide as little as 2-3% or as much as 5-8% of total calories. This compares with 14% from saturated fat and 35% from total fat.
A trans fatty acid is made when unsaturated fatty acids are hydrogenated. Again, this means adding hydrogen atoms on the fatty acid molecule to make a solid product. In a trans fatty acid the two added hydrogen atoms are placed on the opposite side of the chain of carbon atoms. This makes the shape of trans fatty acids straight rather than curved, like the natural occurring cis fatty acid. A cis fatty acid has the two hydrogen atoms added on the same side of the carbon atoms.
Research continues, but trans fatty acids appear to raise blood levels of total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol and possibly to lower HDL-cholesterol levels. The best dietary advice remains unchanged-reduce fat intake to 30 percent of calories or fewer and saturated fat to 10 percent of calories or fewer. In general, limit your consumption of high-fat snacks.
It is no longer a simple choice between butter and margarine as there are now a number of margarines and spreads. Margarine, an imitation of butter, has now been imitated. Which you should choose depends on whether you are concerned about the calorie content, the total fat content, the cholesterol content, or the amount of polyunsaturated fat it contains.
Butter has no more calories or fat than the first two margarines listed. It does contain a small amount of cholesterol (31 mg per tablespoon) and most of the fat it contains is saturated. The soft margarine is the highest in polyunsaturated fat and has no cholesterol, but it has just as much fat and as many calories as butter. The imitation margarine has the smallest amount of fat, the fewest calories, and no cholesterol.
Margarines and spreads are made from vegetable oils which are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and contain no cholesterol. However, the oil is partially hydrogenated (saturated) in the process of making a margarine or spread to give the product shape. If you are looking for the margarine or spread with the most polyunsaturated fat, look for one that lists liquid oil as the first ingredient.
Butter, Margarines, & Spreads
|1 Tablespoon:||Calories||Total fat
|Butter, (80% fat)
Margarine, reg (80% fat)
Margarine, soft (80% fat)
Margarine, imitation (40% fat)
Spread (60% fat)
The ingredients used to prepare a product must be listed on the label of most food products. The order in which they are listed can help you in making a selection. The item listed first was used in the largest amount by weight.
These ingredient lists were taken from containers of margarines or spreads.
What other changes should you make in your diet? Be sure you are getting enough fiber. Some kinds of fiber help to lower blood cholesterol levels; other kinds help to regulate your bowel function and may reduce your risk of cancer. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, and other grain products. Animal products have little fiber no matter how chewy they are.
Soluble fiber helps to lower blood cholesterol levels in most individuals when added to the diet. Oat bran is the most talked about source of soluble fiber, but dry beans and peas and most fruits also contain soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber produces the tough, chewy texture of wheat bran, whole grains, and vegetables. Cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin are insoluble fibers. Eating foods containing insoluble fiber is important for proper bowel function and can reduce symptoms of chronic constipation, diverticular disease, and hemorrhoids.
You may see conflicting information about the fiber content of foods. Until recently, crude fiber was the measure used. Now we know that foods don't have to be "rough" or eaten raw in order to have fiber. Pectin, present in most fruits, is a form of soluble fiber which is not at all crispy or crunchy. The new food label lists the number of grams of dietary fiber and the percent daily value. Manufacturers may also list the amount of insoluble and soluble fiber in a food.
Fruits and vegetables are low-fat, no-cholesterol foods which you can use to replace some of the high-fat foods you are now eating. Cook and eat them with little or no added fat. If you are worried about calories, go easy on the sugar, too. A bonus for fruits and vegetables is their vitamin A and vitamin C content. Some researchers think that foods containing vitamins help to prevent cancer. Thus, the 5-A-Day national campaign to encourage people to eat five fruits and vegetables a day.
How much fiber do you need? It takes just 2 ounces of oat bran a day (about 6 grams of soluble fiber) to lower blood cholesterol levels when added to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. That equals 2 servings of cooked oat bran or oatmeal but you should get more total dietary fiber than that-20 to 30 grams every day is the usual recommendation.
a day of
a day of
a day of
The following groupings of foods in Table 3 have about the same amount of fiber. The serving size is 1/2 cup unless otherwise indicated. Notice that meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products are not included as they do not contain fiber.
The Food Guide Pyramid recommends 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta products, 3 to 5 servings of vegetables, and 2 to 4 servings of fruits each day. If you selected all of the servings from the listing of foods with 1 to 3 grams of fiber, you would get 8 to 24 grams of fiber. That is marginal so select at least one food each day with 3 or more grams of fiber. VCE Publication 348-050, The Bottom Line: Eating up to 6-11 Servings, can help you calculate how much fiber is in your diet.
Fiber is apt to cause a feeling of fullness and gas, so you may want to increase fiber consumption gradually. Drink plenty of liquid to get the full benefit.
How much sodium should you have? Experts suggest that 3000 mg would be a good target for healthy adults. Low sodium diets may be planned at 2000, 1000, or even 500 mg.
Persons with high blood pressure are often advised to eat less sodium. Salt is the most usual source of sodium: one teaspoon has 2300 mg of sodium. Use less salt in cooking and at the table, but also go easy on prepared foods that have sodium added. Canned soups, frozen dinners, cured meats and luncheon meats, chips, crackers, dill pickles, and sauerkraut are examples of foods that can have high amounts of sodium per serving.
The sodium content of a serving of food will be listed on the new food label as the number of milligrams of sodium in a serving and percent daily value.
|If the label says:||then the amount of sodium per serving is:|
Very low sodium
Sodium free or salt free
"Light in sodium" or "Lightly salted"
Unsalted or no salt added
|140 mg or less
35 mg or less
5 mg or less
50% less than usual product
75% less than usual product
None added but may contain sodium
A "Nutrition Facts" panel is required on the label of food products to tell the amount of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, and certain vitamins and minerals that are contained in a serving of a product.
The food label will state the number of grams of fat and saturated fat with the percentage of daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. The size of the serving is also given. Again, for more information on understanding food labels, refer to VCE Publications 348-077, Use The New Food Label To Choose A Diet Low In Fat, Saturated Fat, And Cholesterol, and 348-076, Use The New Food Label To Shop Smart.
Change your own favorite recipes to lower the amount of cholesterol or fat they contain, or to include more polyunsaturated fat and less saturated fat or to reduce the amount of sugar and salt or to increase the amount of fiber. Many of these changes will also lower the calorie content.
You can either change the way the food is cooked or change ingredients. Bake or boil a potato or chicken rather than frying. Or stew an apple instead of making an Apple Dumpling. To change ingredients, you might use less of an ingredient or leave it out altogether. Or you might substitute something else for an ingredient. Using oil in a muffin recipe instead of melted butter would increase the polyunsaturated fat and lower the saturated fat content of the muffins.
|If a recipe calls for:||use|
|1 cup butter or margarine
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
|3/4 cup oil
3/4 tablespoon oil
It isn't always possible to substitute one kind of a shortening for another, however. Solid shortenings (butter, margarine, hydrogenated shortenings, lard) work better than oils in cakes where the sugar and shortening are creamed together.
Oils, lard, and hydrogenated shortenings are 100% fat. Butter and regular margarines are just 80% fat; spreads and imitation margarines have only 40 to 60% fat which means they have less "shortening" power.
What you eat is important to your health, but so are other health habits. Physical activity whether for work or recreation is a key element in health. Exercise can help to control weight, to lower total plasma cholesterol, and to increase the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol.
There is stronger evidence to support the relationship of smoking to risk of heart disease and cancer than for diet. If you are going to change dietary practices, you should first consider stopping smoking.
Should children in the family change their eating habits? Infants and teens are growing at a very rapid rate, so it is important that the food they eat supply the calories and other nutrients they need. There's a danger that cutting out or down on foods that contain fat (meat, milk, egg) will mean there are not enough calories and other needed nutrients such as calcium and iron for normal growth to occur. In fact, some physicians have reported seeing children whose growth has been stunted because parents severely restricted fat intake. The experts agree that diets of infants and children up to age two should not be changed.
There is not such a clear cut answer for older children and teens. If there is a strong family history of heart disease, it is a good idea to have blood cholesterol tested, perhaps even a blood profile done. Most physicians will suggest dietary changes if the total cholesterol level is above 175; certainly, if above 200. Increasing the variety of foods eaten, such as including more fruits, vegetables, and grain products; selecting low-fat dairy products; using poultry, fish, and mature beans and peas as well as moderate (or smaller) portions of lean pork, beef, lamb, and veal as protein sources; and increasing the variety of ways food is prepared are good nutrition practices whether your goal is to keep blood cholesterol low or to lower elevated cholesterol levels.
2. Excerpts from two other extension services on Canola Oil
Nebraska Extension Service
Canola produces an oil that has the lowest saturated fat content of any vegetable oil. Today, there is an increasing demand for this oil by diet-conscious consumers.
In 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized rapeseed and canola as two different species, based on their content and uses. Rapeseed oil is used in industry, while canola oil is used for human consumption. High erucic acid rapeseed (HEAR) oil contains 22-60 percent erucic acid, while low erucic acid rapeseed (LEAR) oil has less than 2 percent erucic acid. Meal with less than 30 Ámol/g glucosinolates is from canola. Livestock can safely eat canola meal, but high glucosinolate rapeseed meal should only be fed to cattle because it may cause thyroid problems in monogastric livestock.
Rapeseed has been grown in India for more than 3000 years and in Europe since the 13th century. The 1950s saw the start of large scale rapeseed production in Europe. Total world rapeseed/canola production is more than 22.5 million metric tons.
In 1989, the United States had 65,000 acres in canola production, about 500 of which were in Nebraska. It's estimated that U.S. farmers would have to produce at least 450,000 acres of canola to meet American consumer demand.
Farmers in Canada began producing canola oil in 1968. Early canola cultivars were known as single zero cultivars because their oil contained 5 percent or less erucic acid, but glucosinolates were high. In 1974, the first licensed double zero cultivars (low erucic acid and low glucosinolates) were grown. Today all canola cultivars are double zero cultivars. Canola is an acronym for Canada Oil Low Acid. Canola has come to mean all rapeseed cultivars that produce oil with less than 2 percent erucic acid and meal with less than 30 Ámol/g of glucosinolates
Univ MO-Columbia Extension Service
Canola is a specific type of rapeseed developed in the 1970s. Rapeseed crops have been grown for thousands of years: Sanskrit writings from 2,000 BC refer to their cultivation. Until the 1940s, rapeseed was grown for lamp fuel, cooking oil and as a forage. During World War II, acreage increased dramatically because rapeseed was used as a lubricant for steam ships, but use declined with the advent of the diesel engine.
Rapeseed grown in the past has had moderate levels of a compound called erucic acid. Research in the 1960s indicated the acid could be harmful. A breeding program initiated in Canada began producing rapeseed varieties with low erucic acid content. In 1978, varieties with less than 2 percent erucic acid were trademarked as "Canola."
In 1985, the USDA granted canola oil GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status for use in foods. This led to sales of canola oil in the United States, with only part of the demand met by U.S. producers. Canola oil has achieved worldwide commodity status and is extensively used in Japan, Canada and other countries.
Uses of canola
Food. Canola is one of the most efficient oil-producing crops available. About 40 percent of the seed weight is oil. Canola produces a high-quality, edible oil that appears to have superior cooking characteristics compared to other vegetable oils. Canola oil has only 6 percent saturated fat, lower than any other vegetable oil. It is also composed of 58 percent monounsaturated fat, a desirable trait to certain consumers.
Livestock. Canola meal, the part of the seed left after the oil is extracted, is of value to the livestock industry. Unlike meal from high erucic acid rapeseed, canola meal is low in glucosinolates. Large amounts of glucosinolates affect growth rate, cause swelling of the thyroid gland and make meal less palatable for livestock. Canola, by definition, has less than 30 micromoles of glucosinolates per gram of seed, so its meal is a safe protein source in animal feeds. Canola meal contains from 32 to 38 percent protein. Feeding trials suggest that canola meal can be substituted into animal feeds with comparable feed value to soybean meal.
Industrial uses. Canola is not used for specific industrial purposes at present. Advancements in technology, however, could develop new uses for canola oil, as has happened for soybeans and other oilseed crops (see Special Note).
2. Source: National Institute of Health web site
Step by Step: Chapter 2 Get Set...
What You Need to Do to Lower Blood Cholesterol
What Can You Do to Lower Your Blood Cholesterol Level?
A Look at Your Way of Eating
Heart-Healthy Eating: The Step I and Step II Diets
A Word About Sodium
What Kind of Success Can You Expect?
What Can You Do to Lower Your Blood Cholesterol Level?
Now that you know about blood cholesterol, get set to lower it. All healthy
Americans, regardless of their blood cholesterol level, should eat in a
heart-healthy way. This is true beginning with toddlers (about age 2) on up to
their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. The whole family
should also be physically active. And if you have a high blood cholesterol
level -- whether due to what you eat, heredity, or both -- it is even more
important to eat healthfully and to be physically active. Adopting these
behaviors also can help control high blood pressure as well as diabetes.
You'll find more help on heart-healthy eating and physical activity a little
later in this resource.
First, here are some general rules to lower blood cholesterol:
1. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat.
All foods that contain fat are made up of a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fat raises your blood cholesterol level more than anything else that you eat. It is found in the greatest amounts in foods from animals, such as fatty cuts of meat, poultry with the skin, whole-milk dairy products, lard, and in some vegetable oils like coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils. The best way to reduce your blood cholesterol level is to choose foods low in saturated fat. One way to do this is by choosing foods such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grain foods naturally low in fat and high in starch and fiber.
2. Choose foods that are low in total fat.
Since many foods high in total fat are also high in saturated fat, eating foods low in total fat will help you eat less saturated fat. When you do eat fat, you should substitute unsaturated fat for saturated fat. Unsaturated fat is usually liquid at room temperature and can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Examples of foods high in monounsaturated fat are olive and canola oils, those high in polyunsaturated fat include safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils. Any type of fat is a rich source of calories, so eating foods low in fat will also help you eat fewer calories. Eating fewer calories can help you lose weight -- and, if you are overweight, losing weight is an important part of lowering your blood cholesterol.
3. Choose foods high in starch and fiber.
Foods high in starch and fiber are excellent substitutes for foods high in saturated
fat. These foods -- breads, cereals, pasta, grains, fruits, and
vegetables -- are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. They are also usually lower in calories than foods that are high in fat. Foods high in starch and fiber are also good sources of vitamins and minerals. Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables, and grain products -- like oat and barley bran and dry peas and beans -- may help to lower blood cholesterol.
4. Choose foods low in cholesterol.
Dietary cholesterol also can raise your blood cholesterol level, although usually not
as much as saturated fat. So, it is important to choose foods low in dietary cholesterol.
Dietary cholesterol is found only in foods that come from animals. Many of these foods
also are high in saturated fat. Foods from plant sources do not have cholesterol but can
contain saturated fat.
5. Move it... Be more physically active.
Moving it -- being physically active -- helps your blood cholesterol levels; it can
raise HDL and may lower LDL. Being more active can also help you lose weight, lower your
blood pressure, improve the fitness of your heart and blood vessels, and reduce stress.
6. Lose weight, if you are overweight.
People who are overweight tend to have higher blood cholesterol levels than
people of desirable weight. And overweight people with an "apple" shape --
bigger (pot) belly -- tend to have a higher risk for heart disease than
those with a "pear" shape -- bigger hips and thighs.
Whatever your body shape, when you cut the fat in your diet, you cut down on
the richest source of calories. An eating pattern high in starch and fiber
instead of fat is a good way to lose weight: many starchy foods have little
fat and are lower in calories than high fat foods. If you are overweight,
losing even a little weight can help to lower LDL-cholesterol and raise
HDL-cholesterol. You don't need to reach your desired weight to see a change
in your blood cholesterol levels.
To lower your blood cholesterol, remember to:
Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol;
Be more physically active; and
Lose weight, if you are overweight.
A Look at Your Way of Eating
Take a minute to look at your current way of eating. "MEDFICTS" is a
checklist of foods for you to fill out. Don't worry, it's not a test. Foods from each of
the various food groups are listed in two groups, Group 1 and Group 2. The number of
servings eaten each week is listed in the "Weekly Consumption" column, and the
size of the servings is listed in the "Serving Size" column. Think about the
foods you eat each week. Look at each food category -- are the foods you eat listed under
Group 1 or Group 2? Once you know the group, follow the line over to the circles under
"Weekly Consumption." Check the circle that best describes the number of
servings of those foods you usually eat in one week. Then check the circle for the portion
size you usually eat. Do the same thing for each of the food groups. Check your score on
the bottom of page 11. It will show you whether you are following the Step I or Step II
diet, or whether you need to make some further changes. If you need help with MEDFICTS,
bring it with you the next time you visit your doctor.
Note: MEDFICTS is a large HTML file consisting of 6 large graphics; it may
take several minutes to load.
Heart-Healthy Eating: The Step I and Step II Diets [Mayo Clinic]
All Americans should follow the general rules to lower blood cholesterol. In fact, this is a way that the whole family can eat (except infants under 2 years who need more calories from fat), because these guidelines are similar to those recommended for the general population. And if the whole family eats in this way, it will help you make your blood cholesterol-lowering diet your everyday way of eating.
If you have high blood cholesterol, you will have to pay attention to what you eat by
following either the Step I diet or Step II diet, as advised by your doctor.
Step I Diet
On the Step I diet, you should eat:
8-10 percent of the day's total calories from saturated fat.
30 percent or less of the day's total calories from fat.
Less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day.
Just enough calories to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. (You may want to ask your doctor or registered dietitian what is a reasonable calorie level for you.)
If you do not lower your blood cholesterol enough on the Step I diet or if you are at
high risk for heart disease, your doctor will ask you to follow the Step II diet. If you
already have heart disease, you should start on the Step II diet right away. The Step II
diet helps you cut down on saturated fat and cholesterol even more than the Step I diet.
This helps lower your blood cholesterol even more.
Step II Diet
On the Step II diet, you should eat:
Less than 7 percent of the day's total calories from saturated fat.
30 percent or less of the day's total calories from fat.
Less than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day.
Just enough calories to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. (You may want to ask your doctor or registered dietitian what is a reasonable calorie level for you.)
The recommendations for saturated fat and total fat are based on a percentage
of the calories you eat; the actual amount you should eat daily will vary
depending on how many calories you eat. See the chart below to get an idea of
the number of grams of saturated fat and total fat you should be eating.
Counting Saturated Fat and Total Fat on the Step I & Step II Diets
If you eat this many calories... 1,200 1,500 1,800 2,000 2,500
Your recommended amount of
saturated fat (grams)* for
each day is...
Step I 12 15 18 20 25
Step II 8-10 12 12 13 17
Your recommended total
amount of fat (grams)**
for each day is...
Step I and Step II 40 50 60 65 80
*Amounts are equal to 9% of total calories for Step I and 6% of total calories for Step
Remember 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories.
**Amounts are equal to 30% of total calories (rounded down to the nearest five);
your intake should be this amount or less.
To get the full benefits of the Step II diet, you should have help from a registered
dietitian or other qualified nutritionist. To find a registered
The National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics' Consumer Nutrition Hotline at 1-800-366-1655, Your local hospital and/or public health department, or Your doctor.
If your levels do not go down enough, you may need to take medicine along with
A Word About Sodium
If you have high blood pressure as well as high blood cholesterol (and many
people do), your doctor may tell you to cut down on sodium or salt. As long as
you are working on getting your blood cholesterol number down, this is a good
time to work on your blood pressure, too. Try to limit your sodium intake to
2,400 milligrams a day. We'll give you tips on how to do this later.
For more detailed sodium information on specific foods, refer to the table
listing the "Sodium Content of Heart-Healthy Foods" and to the tables on food
and food groups.
What Kind of Success Can You Expect?
Generally your blood cholesterol level should begin to drop a few weeks after
you start on a cholesterol-lowering diet. How much your level drops depends on
the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol you used to eat, how high your
high blood cholesterol is, how much weight you lose if you are overweight, and
how your body responds to the changes you make. Over time, you may reduce your
blood cholesterol level by 10-50 mg/dL or even more.